Education in Japan

Japan – education

The general goals of the Japanese education system since 1947 have been to develop the individual’s personality, which is especially sought to be achieved through special moral education. The Japanese education system is characterized by a stricter discipline and a higher class quotient than in Europe and the United States, and it is centrally governed, which includes a State Inspectorate and Authorization of Textbooks.

The Japanese school year is in primary school of 243 days (1993) against, for example, the Danish public school’s 200 school days. In the public school system, tuition is free at the compulsory school age.

The school system consists of a municipal preschool for 3-5-year-olds, the yogi, a six-year elementary school, shogakko, and a superstructure education in two levels of three-year duration each. The first level, chugakko, is thus covered by the nine-year compulsory schooling for 6-15-year-olds. The teaching at the second level of the superstructure education, kotogakko, which includes vocational subjects, can take place either as full-time studies, zennichisei katei, or as part-time studies, including evening courses, teijisei katei, and correspondence courses, tsushinsei katei; the latter are fragmented to some extent.

In addition to the public school system, there are private schools; they occupy at the last level of the superstructure education approximately 30% of students (1993).

Higher education is offered by universities, daigaku, higher education institutions, tangi-daigaku, and higher technical institutions, koto-senmongakko. Admission to more than 500 public as well as private universities, where the studies are traditional academic educations, presupposes completed postgraduate education and passed the entrance examination, designed by the university in question. At the other almost 600 higher education institutions, the majority of which are private and offer 2-3-year studies of humanities, the students are predominantly women.

The over 60 higher technical educational institutions, most of which are public, include five-year studies in technology and engineering. Many higher education institutions are closely linked to the private sector. High admission requirements to the universities have led many to apply to preparatory schools, juku, which must strengthen the students in passing exams and entrance exams.

Adult education is a growing area; a wide range of educations is offered, especially through the media, both through the formal system and through more informal institutions. The teaching, which has so far been organized on the basis of a six-day week, is gradually moving to a five-day week in the 1990’s.

ETYMOLOGY: In Japanese, the land is called Nippon, Nihon, (from Chinese Riben ‘Origin of the Sun’, abbreviation of Riben-guo ‘the land where the Sun rises’, by Marco Polo interpreted as Zipangu, eventually distorted to Japan).

OFFICIAL NAME: Nihon Koku (The Land where the Sun Rises)


POPULATION: 126,760,000 (Source: COUNTRYaah)

AREA: 377,812 km²

OFFICIAL LANGUAGE (S): Japanese, Korean, Chinese, others

RELIGION: Shintoists and Buddhists 84%, Christians 1%, others 15%

COIN: yen



POPULATION COMPOSITION: Japanese 99%, others (especially Koreans) 1%

GDP PER residents: $ 39592 (2007)

LIFE EXPECTANCY: men 78 years, women 85 years (2007)




Japan is an empire in East Asia, nicknamed the kingdom of the sun, island kingdom and ancient cultural land with great influence from China throughout history.

  • Find two-letter abbreviation for each independent country and territory, such as JA which stands for Japan.

At the end of World War II, Japan was bombed, after the two atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but since then the country has developed into the world’s second largest economy (after the United States). It is a central part of the East Asian growth region, but is also integrated into Western economies, and Japanese capital, know-how and entrepreneurship characterize a large number of sectors in the world market, including electronics, cars and shipping.

Japan – culture and lifestyle

Until the downfall of the Japanese bubble economy in the early 1990’s, the country benefited from an image abroad as a peace-loving harmonious culture with an imitative corporate culture. The image had been created by the Japanese themselves in previous decades in the so-called nihonjinron literature (“theories of the Japanese”), which in short portrays the Japanese as being in harmony (wa), in close contact with nature, which values ​​purity and aesthetics, which is compromise seekers, are collectively minded and are hardworking, obedient citizens.

Today, the image of the sacrificing industrious Japanese has been replaced by the image of a new social character, influenced by a Western set of values, which prioritizes the individual and needs satisfaction higher. Shinjinrui ( “the new man”) is the older generation’s nickname for the new selfish generation.

The Japanese state seeks to create a different image of Japan through “public diplomacy” as a modern cultural power, a “soft power” whose cultural capital lies in the popular arts, where Japan must be said to be the leader: manga (comics), anime (cartoons) and computer games. “Cool Japan”. Unlike the elitist-aesthetic art forms of earlier times, such as the ceremony, ikebana (flower arrangements), bonsai (miniature tree), origami (paper art), ceramics and calligraphy.

The family with three generations under the same roof largely no longer exists. The mother who takes care of children, household and grandparents, and the father who works hard. Up to a third of both sexes do not want to get married at all, and the birth rate is so low that Japan is shrinking. The number of older people who also experience loneliness is growing proportionally.

At the same time, Japan has experienced earthquakes (Kobe 1995 and Tohoku 2011), which have put the unity to the test. It must be said, however, that the last in 2011, which began as an earthquake, was a tsunami and hit the Fukushima nuclear power plant with subsequent radioactive release, showed the unity and courage of the population, while state power failed.

Japan (Women)

The Japanese perception of the different character and obligations of the sexes has been strongly influenced by Confucian principles, which were formulated in the moral code of the Tokugawa period. Obedience, gentleness, chastity, compassion and silence were the ideal virtues for women and the starting point for the desired harmony in the relationship between the sexes. During the Meiji Restoration, the position of women was debated, but the legislation of 1898 resulted in ie, the traditional Japanese multigenerational family, where a male head had full authority, was made the legal entity of society. Patriarchal custom, in which women were legally considered minors, was thereby made law. Agitation for the rights of Japanese women in the early 1900’s. was swept off the table with the nationalist mobilization of the 1930’s. In the late 1930’s, the organizations The Women’s Patriotic Society and the National Defense Women’s Association had a total of over 11 million. members. The aim was to strengthen the “family state” and promote the duty of women to provide support for war efforts.

Since the years of occupation, women have enjoyed full political and legal equality, but they are still under-represented in the political system. In contrast, women play an important role in grassroots movements and in the more aesthetically-ceremonial parts of Japanese culture. Japanese women are generally well-educated, but in higher education, male students dominate the four-year university degrees, while women are mainly sent to two-year universities, where the subjects literature, child rearing and home economics dominate. Female labor played a major role in the industrialization of Japan, especially in the textile industry, and continues to play a major role in the rapidly growing service sector. Women make up just under half of the workforce, but as it is common, and otherwise expected.

Japan – language

Official language is Japanese, whose location in the Altaic language family is disputed. I 400-t. borrowed the Chinese script, which over the next centuries was adapted to the Japanese language structure by developing an additional sound alphabet, kana, a common name for the alphabets hiragana and katakana. The default language, hyojungo, is based on the Tokyo dialect. Minorities speak Chinese and Korean, while Ainu is no longer used as a daily language. English is a compulsory subject in schools.

Japan – religions

Most Japanese are followers of two religions, Shinto and Buddhism. Both of these religions are not averse to other faiths. They are inclusive.

The prevalence and the inclusion often appear on the ritual side of the religions; for example, the ceremonies at birth and weddings take place at Shinto shrines, while burials are performed from Buddhist temples.

According to statistics (2019), Japan’s most important religions have the following figures for followers:

Religion Number in millions
Shinto 84.6
Buddhism 77.0
Christianity 4.7
New religions 14.3

However, when it comes to personal relationships, only one-third consider themselves religious. Especially after World War II, secularization has gained momentum. Common to Japanese religions are ancestral worship, purity precepts, and the notion of the reward of believers in this world.

Compared to the country’s total population (approximately 126 million), this shows that most Japanese are both Shinto and Buddhist, a result of religious inclusivity.


Shinto is the national religion of the country with roots in ancient kami cult; it can be traced back 2000 years, where it was expressed through fertility cult, nature worship and ancestral worship. Shinto first appears as a religion with the sacred scriptures Kojiki and Nihongi, after Buddhism had come from mainland Asia, and for long periods it was subject to Buddhism.

It has been strongest among the rice-growing rural population, as the greatest god (kami) is the sun goddess Amaterasu, but also fishermen have worshiped Shinto gods, for example in Izumo. It was not until the 19th century, when Japan opened up to Western influence, sought its own roots and emphasized the imperial lineage of the emperor, that Buddhism was swept aside and Shinto was introduced as the state religion. Many temples were divided into Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples.

Until the end of World War II in 1945, Shinto was the dominant religion. With Japan’s defeat, state shinto was made illegal, and the emperor renounced his divinity. Today, Japan has a constitutional freedom of religion, and Shinto is given the same rights as other religions, but doubts have been raised about the real separation of Shinto and the Japanese state; most recently, the relationship was debated at the coronation of Emperor Naruhito in 2019 (see daijosai).

Today, the importance of Shinto in the population is diminishing, but increasingly political.


Buddhism came in the 5th century from India via China and Korea to Japan, mainly in the form of Mahayana Buddhism. The introduction of Buddhism is usually set at 552, but despite the large-scale attempts of various emperors to make Buddhism the country’s religion, the first directions of Buddhism did not succeed in becoming popular. Prince Shotoku, in his 17 points (principles of a Japanese constitution) from 604 Buddhism to state religion, however, strongly mixed with Confucianism.

In the Nara period (710-794) there were six different directions, but a real development of Buddhism on Japanese soil did not happen until the next two periods, Heian (794-1185) and Kamakura (1185-1333). In the Heian period, new directions from China gained ground in the form of Tenda Buddhism and Shingon Buddhism. Buddhism was not yet popular, with the Tendai monks on Mount Hiibo outside Kyoto and the Shingon monks on Mount Koya south of Osaka dominating. Hieibjerget is considered the hotbed of Japanese Buddhism, as the religious innovators of the Kamakura period were all educated within the broad Tenda Buddhism.

Buddhism first spread to all the people during the Kamakura period, when the five great religious innovators lived: Honen (1133-1212) and Shinran (1173-1263) within Pure Land Buddhism, Eisai (1141-1215) and Dogen (1200 -1253) within Zen Buddhism and Nichiren (1222-1282), the direction of which is simply called Nichiren Buddhism. The directions gained so much worldly power that they posed a threat to the authorities. During the Muromachi-Monoyama periods (1333-1603), Japan’s history was marked by civil war, and especially Shin Buddhism, a direction under Pure Land Buddhism founded by Shinran, showed its influence in several peasant uprisings. Zen Buddhism gained a more elitist position; it became the favorite religion of the samurai class and thus in periods state religion, eg Rinzai-zen in the Muromachi period.

In the period up to the beginning of the Tokugawa shogunate (1603-1868), the power of Buddhism was broken by the shoguns Nobunaga, Hideyoshi and Ieyasu. In 1571, Nobunaga burned down the temples of Mount Hiibi and in 1580 captured the stronghold of Shin Buddhism, Ishiyama Honganji, the origin of Osaka. Christianity had come to Japan in 1549, and after first enjoying the goodwill of local princes, Hideyoshi banned it for the first time in 1587, without, however, the ban being enforced; Ieyasu renewed it in 1614. To thoroughly bring Christianity to life, the Danka system was introduced ., which meant that all families in Japan had to be registered as belonging to a Buddhist temple. The affiliation had to be confirmed once a year and in effect made Buddhism the henchman of the state. Not only was it a matter of religious coercion and a way of holding a census, but Buddhist priests recorded all births, deaths, marriages, travels, and changes in residence and employment. Apparently Buddhism gained great power, but it was to some extent subjected to hatred by the population and thereby petrified in its development. In response, a nascent Shinto renaissance emerged in the late 18th century as a prelude to Shinto’s resurgence in the Meiji period (1868-1912). In the middle of the 19th century, therefore, Buddhism was very weakened.

Today, the importance of Buddhism among the Japanese is declining.


Confucianism came to Japan with the great cultural influence of China in the 5th century. It has meant a lot to Japanese ethics, but there has been no real Confucian cult. Most often, Confucianism has functioned in alliance with religious directions, thus with Zen Buddhism in bushido, the moral code of the samurai class, and with shinto in the modern version of state shinto 1890-1945. Its most important period was the Tokugawa era, when it was the ideology of the state, and there was a system of Confucian centers of learning, seido, for the education of the local and central government.

In education, Confucianism has played a very large role. The nationalist moral education of the 1930’s, shushin, was strongly influenced by Confucianism. Today’s teaching of ethics, dotoku, shows remnants of Confucian influence. Only after World War II has Western morality really become widespread.


Religious Daoism is another Chinese cultural tradition that came to Japan in the 5th century. A “Yin-yang Ministry” (Onyo-ryo) was established to deal with the metaphysics of Daoism at the state level, ie. interpretation of happy and unhappy days and the like. This knowledge was eventually incorporated into Shinto and lies, for example, behind the earth-cleansing ceremonies (jichinsai) that Shinto priests perform before the construction of new houses begins even today.


has three times embarked on a large-scale mission in Japan: In the “Christian century” beginning with the arrival of the Jesuits in Japan in 1549, in the Meiji era and after World War II. The first attempt was most successful, with an estimated 300,000 Japanese becoming Christians in 60 years, approximately 2% of the country’s population. When rumors arose that European powers would subjugate Japan, the shoguns turned against Christianity, which they considered a danger to the country’s security. From the middle of the 17th century until 1853, Japan chose to isolate itself from the outside world, as only a Dutch trading post on the artificial island of Deshima in Nagasaki was allowed to trade with the West and China.

The ban on Christianity was maintained until 1873, when American and European pressure led the government to lift it. Earlier, in 1865, a group of “hidden Christians” had made themselves known in Nagasaki, and deportations of members of the group helped increase pressure on the government. In the ensuing time, many, mostly well-educated, converted to Christianity, but around 1890, Shinto was defined as Japan’s spiritual foundation, and Japan took a more hostile stance toward Western influences. The Christian congregations that were formed came into Japanese hands as the missionaries ceased their work. Among the Japanese Christians with great influence was Uchimura Kanzo, who founded a Japaneseized form of Christianity without a church.

After World War II, a “Christian boom” followed in 1945-51. Foreign churches, especially American ones, sent massive material aid to poor Japan; but after the end of the occupation in 1952, Buddhism and Shinto regained some of their influence, and the missionary work of the churches was gradually shifted to dialogue work with Buddhism and Shinto. Today, quite a few Japanese are Christians, but Christianity has left strong traces in the education system, trade union movements and social legislation.

Christianity today is showing an increase in the number of followers.

New religions

The Japanese call the new religions shinshukyo. They include a number of religions dating back to the early 1800’s. They are called “new” as they are in opposition to directions within the established religions and often mix these.

The oldest, which stem from the social unrest of the late Tokugawa era, include Tenri-kyo and Konko-kyo, influenced by Shinto. In the spring, Ontake-kyo, a religion characterized by Shugendo, Itto-en and Omoto-kyo to. In the 1930’s, the latter messianic religion became the starting point for a new series of religions, including Seicho-no-ie, who claims that all religions are one and the same. The period leading up to World War II was rich in new religions, although the state’s persecution of many of them was strong: Reiyukai, a Buddhist religion with a strong emphasis on ancestral worship, Perfect Liberty Kyodan (PL), characterized by faith healing, Gedatsukai with a background in shingon Buddhism and shugendo, Soka Gakkaiwithin nichiren Buddhism and Rissho Kosei Kai, building on the Lotus Sutra. Of these, Soka Gakkai was by far the most influential after World War II.

With religious freedom, the number of new religions has increased since 1945. Among them is Tensho Kotai Jingu-kyo, the “dance religion” founded by Kitamura Sayo (1900-1967), a woman with roots in the shamanistic tradition in Japan. Incidentally, many of the new religions have female founders.

In the 1970’s and 1980’s, another wave, called “new” new religions (Shinshinshukyo), including Mahikari, based on Shinto, and Agonshu, which is influenced by Shingon Buddhism. Moreover, Happy Science (“Kofuku no Kagaku”) in the 1990’s, influenced by theosophy.

Finally, Aum Shinrikyo, an eschatological movement mixed with Hinduism and Buddhism, founded by Shoko Asahara. In 1995, Aum carried out a much-publicized religious-terrorist act, a poison gas attack on a Tokyo subway station. Aum Shinrikyo’s actions sparked a public debate on the control of the new religions and thus on the constitutional freedom of religion, as well as thoughts on better information to the youth about the working methods of the new religions. The debate has resulted in changes in the registration of religions, which are now extended to the entire nation, as well as options for monitoring religions.

Japan – constitution and political system

Japan is a constitutional monarchy. The 1947 Constitution, with subsequent amendments, obliges Japan to abstain forever from going to war to resolve international conflicts; however, the country must act in self-defense. The emperor, no longer considered divine, is the representative head of state, but without political power. He must seek the advice and approval of the government in the performance of his duties.

Legislative power lies with a bicameral parliament, the Kokkai. There is universal suffrage and the voting age is 20 years. The lower house, the House of Representatives, has, after changes in 1994, 500 members elected for four years. 300 members are elected in single-member constituencies, and 200 are elected by proportional representation in the country’s 11 regions; there is a cut-off limit of 2%.

The Upper House, the Advisory Assembly, has 252 members elected for six years. 100 members are elected according to party lists in proportional representation elections, and 152 are elected in personal elections in 47 constituencies that coincide with the country’s administrative units. Each voter has two votes in elections to the upper house; half of the seats are up for election every three years.

The lower house has a much stronger position than the upper house; it must thus, for example, have the Finance Act for consideration first. If the upper house either fails to take a position within 30 days or votes against a budget bill passed by the lower house, or if it fails to reach an agreement in a joint committee set up by the two houses, a budget bill passed by the lower house by force.

The same procedure applies to the definition of foreign policy and the conclusion of treaties. About law generally applies that if the upper house either veto or fails to decide within 60 days after the lower house has passed a bill, it becomes law, if passed the second time by the lower house by at least 2/3 majority.

The executive power lies with the Prime Minister and the other members of the government. The government is collectively accountable to parliament. The Prime Minister is appointed by Parliament. If there is disagreement between the lower house and the upper house about the election of a prime minister, and if agreement cannot be reached through the establishment of a joint committee, or if the upper house has not appointed anyone to the post within ten days of the lower house having made its election, the House of Commons’ proposal that applies.

The Prime Minister appoints and dismisses the other ministers, a majority of whom are to come from Parliament. If the lower house casts a no-confidence motion, the entire government will resign unless the lower house is dissolved within ten days.

The Prime Minister submits bills, reports on national and international affairs to Parliament and controls and monitors the various administrative bodies. All laws and government decrees must be signed by the Minister responsible for the area and countersigned by the Prime Minister.

Japan – political parties

After a period after World War II with floating borders between the parties, the Japanese party system in 1955 adopted a fixed structure that remained relatively unchanged until 1993. In October 1955, the majority of the parliament’s progressive members gathered in a united socialist party, Nihon Shakaito (Japan Socialist Party, JSP), and the following month the Conservatives of the Liberal Democratic Party, Jiyu Minshuto (Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)).

When it then did not develop into a real two-party system, it was because the LDP usually had a majority in parliament, while JSP that throughout the period was the largest opposition party, the highest level of 1/3 of the seats. The LDP held government until 1993.

In 1959 formed a splinter group from the JSP the Democratic Socialist Party, Minshato (Democratic Socialist Party, DSP), and in 1964 was a completely new party, Komeito (Clean Government Party), related to the Buddhist organization Soka Gakkai, which the opposition more were fragmented. The Japanese Communist Party, Nihon kyosanto (Japan Communist Party, JCP), has played only a small role in Japanese politics.

It was the LDP that implemented the economic growth policy that was to become the background for the “Japanese miracle”, but the party did not form a homogeneous group. It was divided into a number of factions, but the desire to retain government power ensured unity. Also JSP was factional and at times paralyzed by ideological strife.

The basis of the LDP’s position of power has been the close links with the bureaucracy and the world of finance and business. This was reflected in the economic policies pursued, but at the same time resulted in a series of corruption scandals that weakened confidence in the political system. Contributing to this was an electoral law that, at the expense of the cities, favored the country, which is the stronghold of the LDP.

In 1993, a growing demand for political reform triggered a crisis that led to a split of the LDP and the formation of a number of new parties: Shinseito, Nihon-shinto (Japan New Party, JNP) and Sakigake. Since 1993, the political situation has been marked by the formation of new parties and new names for old ones.

As early as 1991, the JSP changed its English name to the Social Democratic Party of Japan, SDPJ, and in 1996 to the SDP, the Social Democratic Party. At an extraordinary party congress in 1995, the party was reorganized as a new democratic-liberal party. The party chairman, Murayama Tomiichi (b. 1924), was prime minister of a coalition government consisting of the SDPJ, LDP and Sakigake in 1994-96.

Until 2001, the LDP ruled with changing coalition partners, but in 2001, Koizumi Junichiro became the new leader of the party, and his unorthodox style heralded new times, rewarding voters with a victory for the LPD. Progress, however, was relatively short-lived, and not least the new party DPJ, which had been formed in 1998 when several opposition parties merged, proved to be a strong opponent.

After the LDP had declined in several elections and in addition had almost annual leadership changes, the party suffered defeat in the August 2009 election, while the DPJ won a historic election victory and was able to take over government power.

Japan – economy

Japan has had one of the fastest growing economies in the world since World War II, and it is now surpassed only by the United States.

While Japan’s gross domestic product in 1965 amounted to approximately 10% of the United States, the share had risen to almost 60% in the early 1990’s.

The development, which was particularly rapid in the 1960’s (10% per year), is not least due to a growth-oriented economic policy, which has been based on implicit planning for both the private and the public sector, in competition restrictions as well as in artificially low interest rates and direct control of the financial sector’s lending.

While enterprise policy, coordinated by the important Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI), has not been peculiar to Japan, its effect has certainly been fostered by the close cultural and institutional ties that exist among business leaders, politicians and government officials.

The cohesion is obvious in the large industrial companies, which is characterized by the conclusion of formal or informal agreements with the wholesale and retail trade, the so-called keiretsu, by the absence of hostile takeovers and by lifelong employment relationships for employees.

It is not least the export sector that has been the driving force in economic progress. Until 2005, the United States was Japan’s most important trading partner, and the marked strengthening of the dollar in the first half of the 1980’s meant further progress for the Japanese economy at a time marked by weak growth in the rest of the world economy and a tightening of it. Japanese fiscal policy with a view to correcting large budget deficits.

However, the collapse of the dollar in 1985 caused problems for competitiveness, and growth fell below 3% in 1986. The slowdown was addressed through an expansive policy, and the economy grew in the years up to 1990 by more than 5% on average. Among other things. as a result of a very lenient credit policy, property prices and stock prices rose dramatically.

When the government tightened monetary policy again in 1990, the financial sector entered a serious crisis and the economy was characterized by a generally negative mood. In the 1990’s, annual growth was only 1.7%, and in order to revive the economy, the government has since implemented several fiscal easing measures, just as monetary policy key interest rates have been lowered to a historically low level. But only after the Asian crisis in 1997 and the international recession around 2000 did growth reach 2% (2004).

Although the economy has thus been weak for a number of years, unemployment rose from only 2.1% in 1991 to approximately 3% in 1996 and 5.5% in 2003, falling to 4.4% in 2005, reflecting the specificities of the Japanese labor market.

The low economic growth combined with the expansive fiscal policy has meant that the government has once again had to face considerable budget deficits since the 1990’s; the deficit is planned to be eliminated until 2011, after which the general government gross debt (158% of gross domestic product in 2005) can be reduced.

One means of achieving this could be cuts in public employment, and it was decided in 2005 to privatize the postal service, which with 400,000 employees also runs a financial business and is the country’s largest employer.

As part of the general liberalization of the world economy, the Japanese government also followed a clearly more market-oriented line from the 1980’s onwards in the form of trade liberalisations, deregulation of the financial sector and the privatization of a number of state-owned enterprises.

This line continued in the 1990’s, where the keiretsu-dominated distribution system was sought to be reformed. This also aims to give foreign companies greater access to the Japanese market.

It has been a major problem in particular that for decades Japan has even had extremely large trade surpluses vis-à-vis the United States. This relationship has periodically led to tensions in the relationship between the two economic superpowers and culminated in the mid-1990’s with threats of an actual trade war.

However, the conflict was averted with a bilateral framework agreement on a new economic partnership, which should open up for increasing Japanese imports of American goods in the automotive industry. Nevertheless, the annual profit grew from approximately 50 billion dollars in the early 1990’s to 69 billion. dollars in 2005.

Unlike the public sector, the private sector has a permanently large savings surplus, and steady surpluses on the balance of payments since 1981 have made Japan the world’s largest credit nation. A large part of the receivable consists of direct investment abroad, and while most of it was made in other OECD countries until the end of the 1980’s in order to avoid the formal trade barriers, they have since been increasingly channeled into the newly industrialized countries in the Far East.

This development is also reflected in foreign trade; In 2002, the ASEAN countries, as well as China, Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan, represented 42% of Japan’s foreign trade.

Denmark’s exports to Japan in 2005 amounted to DKK 11.5 billion. DKK, and imports amounted to 4.4 billion. At 44%, meat was by far the most important Danish export product. Medical and pharmaceutical products accounted for 18%. Of imports, vehicles were 29%.

Japan – social conditions

Japan has experienced high economic growth since World War II. Also in the development within life expectancy, level of education and gross domestic product per. per capita, measured by the so-called Human Development Index, Japan ranks at the top. The people of Japan thus live in one of the richest countries in the world, which has managed to distribute its wealth so that Japan appears as a relatively egalitarian society. However, the economic crisis in the 1990’s has meant increasing inequality, e.g. as a result of property speculation and increased housing costs.

The Japanese welfare system combines Western European systems with traditional Asian values ​​that emphasize the family as the basic unit. Japan’s social system covers three main areas: health, pensions and unemployment and is a combination of public services and private savings from companies and employees. In addition, there is a network of day care institutions that provide childcare. However, assistance to the poor or others in need is often made dependent on family relationships.

In the coming years, Japan will face a concrete problem in the social field: the rapidly aging population. In 1995, the elderly over the age of 65 accounted for 14.8% of the total population. According to the UN, this figure will increase to 25% by the year 2020, which will mean sharply increased expenses for pensions, nursing homes and medicines. Check youremailverifier for Japan social condition facts.

Japan (Health Conditions)

Life expectancy in 1995 had risen to 83 years for women and 76 years for men, the highest in the world. Infant mortality is the lowest with approximately fire pr. 1000 live births.

Japan differs markedly from other industrialized countries in terms of disease panorama. Compared to Australia and New Zealand, whose morbidity conditions are very similar to NW Europe, there is 3-4 times lower mortality from breast cancer, twice as high mortality due to chronic liver diseases incl. liver cancer and four times higher mortality from gastric cancer, while the mortality from coronary artery disease is 4-5 times less in Japan. It is likely that both the high incidence of stomach cancer and the low incidence of heart disease are related to living conditions, especially dietary habits, which is reinforced by the fact that Japanese compared to northwestern Europeans gnsntl. have a low level of cholesterol in the blood.

Over 50% of adult Japanese men smoke, while under 20% of women do. The mortality rate from lung cancer for both sexes is less than half of the Danish.

Japan uses approximately 6% of GDP in the health care system, ie. about the same as Denmark, and approximately 30% of all public spending goes to health care. The entire population is partially covered in case of illness, almost completely at hospitalization. In total, the public sector covers approximately 70% of all health care costs. The majority of the other expenses are covered by various insurance systems paid for by the employers. In virtually all parts of the healthcare system, however, there is a certain deductible for patients. Japan has approximately 15 hospital beds per. 1000 residents, I.e. three times as many as in Denmark. In 1992 there were approximately 10,000 hospitals with more than 20 beds; approximately 3/4 of these hospitals were private. In addition, in the same year there were approximately 80,000 clinics with fewer than 20 beds; by far the majority were private. There are 1.6 doctors and 1.8 nurses per. 1000 residents

Japan – legal system

The rules of social cohabitation between people that applied in Japan before the influence of Western law consisted essentially of giri. These were conventional rules that were complied with due to strong social pressure, see the Far Eastern legal family. Shortly before 1900, law books were introduced after the mainly German model, including a civil, a commercial and a civil process law book. Japanese jurisprudence also oriented itself towards the dogmatic German of the time, the historical school. German-influenced law was introduced despite the great difficulties involved in reproducing Western legal ideas and rules of law in Japanese, which are so rich in poetic associations, but in return without legal terms. It can still be difficult to express an exact legal mindset in Japanese.

After World War II, Japanese law came under American influence. A new constitution was introduced, which was influenced by the United States and aimed at strengthening the position of the courts and introducing human rights. A corporation, monopoly and stock exchange law was enacted following the American pattern, and the German legal method was supplemented by the more open, society-oriented American jurisprudence.

However, the court is still a rarely used means of resolving social conflicts in Japan. The Western ideas of legal logic and consequence and of equality between the people on which modern Japanese law is based have not taken root in the Japanese people. The laws that were created in Western Europe in the 1800’s are based on the belief of the individual initiative; it was the free initiative that created industry and trade. In Japan, on the other hand, the government entrusted the former feudal lords with building up companies. They were the ones who created the flourishing industry, while preserving the old ties to the family, the village and the workplace, the basis of the giri, which still exists. It is not the process before the courts, but the out-of-court settlement that decides the conflicts. Such settlements are often made by negotiation between prominent members of the two parties’ families or between other “superiors” whom the parties trust. For the few cases that are brought before the courts, there are special conciliation commissions that bring a large part of the brought cases to conciliation.

In the late 1900-t. however, the Japanese have begun to show interest in justice and the administration of justice. Lawsuits about industrial companies’ product liability and pollution of the environment have aroused great interest among many Japanese. When so few cases are still being heard in the Japanese courts, this is partly due to the fact that they are understaffed and that the number of lawyers is also modest. It is claimed to be the policy of the government to keep the administration of justice on a weak flame; thus, the people are forced to resolve their disputes by conciliation.

Japan (Military)

The “Self-Defense Forces” peacekeeping force is (2006) 239,900, with 148,200 in the land forces, 34,600 in the maritime forces, 9800 in the maritime air forces and 45,600 in the air forces. The reserve is 44,395. The forces are equipped with a mix of newer Japanese-made and other Western, primarily American equipment. The Japanese-produced share is increasing. The composition of the forces reflects the geography and location of Japan; thus, the maritime forces and the air forces are relatively large. The air forces are dominated by fighter jets rather than fighter bombers. In addition, a coast guard of 12,250.

The Japanese Empire was demilitarized after World War II, but in 1954 the Eisenhower administration believed that Japan was ripe to have armed forces again. In order not to offend the victims of Japanese expansionism before and during World War II, the euphemistic term JSDF (Japan Self-Defense Forces) was chosen. Article 9 of Japan’s new constitution otherwise prohibits Japan from maintaining its army, navy and air force. Pacifist forces in Japan have over time charged changing governments with violating the constitution, even though the “guards” are called the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (Army), Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (Navy) and Japan Air Self-Defense Force (Air Force).

In 1998, North Korea fired a Taepodong-1 missile over Japan and North Korea is in possession of nuclear weapons. In 2004 agreed the United States and Japan to establish a missile defense (BMD: Ballistic missile defense) consisting of Standard Missile 3 on four Aegis – destroyers of Congo -class as well as land-based Patriot Advanced Capability 3 surface to air missiles. On 28 March 2003, the otherwise civilian Japanese space program launched the first Information Gathering Satellite, which spied on North Korea with radar. It has since become a total of four spy satellites, two optical and two radar-equipped.

Japan (Trade Union Movement)

In the period before the end of World War II, the labor movement had poor opportunities for development due to authoritarian rule. The first national organization, Sodomei, emerged in 1921, but its importance did not become great, and by 1940 all trade unions were banned.

After World War II, a new trade union movement was created on the basis of trade union laws and constitutional provisions. In the first post-war years, approximately 40% organized; since then, the trade union movement has split in different directions, with the trade unions in particular standing outside the national organizations. The trade union movement is heavily politicized, and until 1987, Sohyo, affiliated with the Socialist Party, was the strongest national organization, while the second largest, the Domei, had links to the Democratic Socialist Party, the DSP.

1987-89, by merging four national organizations, a new one was created, Rengo, which declared itself independent of parties but sought to develop an active opposition to the dominant liberal-democratic party. There were several reasons for the association, including the general weakening of the trade union movement, as the degree of organization in 1989 had fallen to approximately 26% and since then has fallen further. In 1995, Rengo, which is affiliated with Frie Faglige Internationale, had approximately DKK 8 million. members, almost 2/3 of all unionized. In opposition to Rengo’s moderate policy, the national organization Zenroren was also established in 1989, which has an anti-capitalist aim and cooperates with the Japanese Communist Party. Zenroren claims to have approximately 1.5 million members predominantly in the public sector. In both the private and the public sector, there are also a number of smaller unions, which together have approximately 3 mio. members. The degree of organization varies from industry to industry with the public employees as the best organized.

Characteristic features are the many business unions that often cooperate closely with the company management, and that the national organizations are weak in relation to the affiliated organizations. The Japanese trade union movement was in significant difficulty in the second half of the 1990’s due to the economic crisis.

Japan – mass media

Japan – Mass Media, Print Mass Media

The Japanese press is young, and it was not until around the 1880’s that newspapers of international standard began to appear. Yet for decades the press has been among the world’s leaders in terms of both circulation and circulation.

The good hundred dailies have a total circulation of approximately 70 million (2005), and thus Japan is one of the countries in the world where the most newspapers are published per. per capita, namely 573 per. 1000 residents

The newspaper market is fairly stable with steadily increasing circulation despite competition from the electronic media. The three largest and most influential dailies, Asahi Shimbun, grdl. 1879 with a circulation of 11.8 million. (2005), Mainichi Shimbun, grdl. 1882 with a circulation of 5.5 million. (2005), and Yomiuri Shimbun, grdl. 1874 with a circulation of 13.9 million. (2005), together accounts for approximately 45% of the total circulation.

Like many other Japanese dailies, these three major Tokyo newspapers are published both morning and afternoon and also have regional, local and English-language editions. None of them have any particular party political affiliation. Other large and influential dailies are the business and financial magazines Nihon Keizai Shimbun, grdl. 1876 ​​with a circulation of 4.6 million. (2005), and Sankei Shimbun, grdl. 1933 with a circulation of 2.8 mill. (2005).

Economically and technically, Japan’s newspaper industry is one of the world leaders. Over 90% of the dailies are sold by subscription with an efficient distribution system. The press is privately owned, and large media groups dominate the market.

For many years, criticism of powerful figures in politics and business was unheard of in the Japanese press, but in the wake of increasing internationalization, more critical journalism has begun to gain ground. The largest news agency is Kyodo News (grdl. 1945).

Electronic mass media

The Japanese are also major consumers of electronic media. Every Japanese over the age of seven spends an average of over three hours in front of the TV screen every day, and for years it has been common with several TVs in every home. On top of that comes computer games and the internet.

The state and licensed radio and television, Nippon Hoso Kyokai (NHK), works side by side with private, commercial stations and networks. NHK was founded in 1926 and reorganized in 1950, three years before television began broadcasting. The television company is considered to be one of the richest in the world and operates three nationwide radio channels and five television channels: a public television channel, an educational channel and three satellite channels, including an HDTV channel (High Definition Television).

The main commercial television companies are Fuji Television, Nippon Television (NTV), TV Asahi and TV Tokyo. 12. In addition to Asahi Shimbun, the other major newspapers are also affiliated with television channels. From the mid-1990’s onwards, cable and satellite television began to gain ground.

Japan – visual art

Japan has a rich cultural history that goes far back in prehistoric times.


Genji monogatari. Detail from an emaki (picture roll) from the 1100’s, which illustrates a scene from the work: At dusk one spring evening, a young officer looks through a crack in the sliding door at the two princesses, who are sitting behind the curtain and playing go. Two other ladies on the porch admire the cherry tree.

The earliest preserved paintings in Japan are murals in tombs and temples from the late 600’s. and the beginning of the 700-t.; style and iconography suggest direct contact with China. With the arrival of the esoteric Buddhist sects in Japan in the 800’s. also followed images of mandala is a stylized chart of Buddhist universes, used in the temples for worship, meditation and teaching.

Paintings imported from China often came as cake mono, a vertical picture roll to hang on the wall. Another image scroll format is the horizontal makimono, which is read from right to left. The masterpiece is illustrated sutras from China that came to Japan in the 700’s. In Japan, makimonos were used for narrative imagery, such as telling stories about famous monks or the founding of temples.

I 900-t. the imperial court and the aristocracy of the capital began to define their own cultural identity alongside the hitherto dominant Chinese influence. In the art of painting, a stylistic distinction was made between kara-e, Chinese-style painting with landscapes and motifs taken from Chinese models, and yamato-e with specific Japanese motifs and references.

I 1000-t. developed a worldly style within makimono, in which literary works were translated into visual narratives and incorporated into an aesthetically oriented lifestyle among a narrow cultural elite. Genji monogatari emakimono (The image roll over the story of Genji), made by anonymous artists in the early 1100’s, reproduces scenes and text excerpts from the period’s famous prose work Genji monogatari, written by court lady Murasaki Shikibu around the year 1000. Women at court actively participated in many parts of cultural life, both as performing artists and as audiences.

In the early 1300-t. the Zen Buddhist monochrome ink painting, sumi-e or suibokuga, became widespread in Japan by visiting monks. The ink paintings were made by artist monks in the Zen monasteries, where the images both in the production process and as a finished work formed the basis for meditation.

The motifs could be figures associated with Zen Buddhist iconography or imaginary landscapes with hints of high mountains in an atmospheric perspective, combined with calligraphy. The artist monk Sesshu, who in the 1400’s. became known for his haboku technique (‘broken ink’), was one of the first Japanese painters to sign his works, suggesting that he was recognized by his contemporaries as an individual artist. Until then, painters were anonymous artisans. Ink painting with Zen Buddhist references had a renaissance in the 1700’s, at the same time as Chinese painting in the Song Age style was continued in an unorthodox interpretation, nanga (‘painting in a southern style’).

From the end of 1500-t. large formats predominated in connection with extensive castle and palace construction, namely fusuma, paper- lined sliding doors, and byobu, paper-lined folding screens used for room division. The large and often colorful and gilded images were coveted; they emphasized the wealth and status of the lord, while the gilded paintings lit up the otherwise obscure castles. The leading school in this style was the Canoe School, which was supported by the shogunate throughout the Edo period (1603-1868).

The canoe school was based on powerful brushstrokes inspired by ink painting, combined with a more refined processing of details. The motifs at Kanoskolen are first and foremost landscapes and scenes from the four seasons, while Tosaskolen specialized in motifs from classical literature in stylized and decorative interpretations.

The first Europeans came to Japan in the 1600’s. and gave rise to a special genre, namban paintings, images of “the southern barbarians”. The Shijo School included elements of Western realism in ink painting. In addition, there are genre scenes that emerged among the growing merchant class in the big cities of the Edo period, and which depict contemporary festivals and entertainment districts.

This is also where the motif circles that characterize woodcuts, ukiyo-e, originate . It is first and foremost pictures of famous courtesans and beautiful women (bijin) from the entertainment world or portraits of kabuki actors (yakusha), which The Torii school specialized in. A special genre was shunga (‘spring pictures’) with erotic motifs.

From the beginning of 1800-t. changed the motifs to landscapes and scenes from famous places, such as Hokusai’s series of views of Mount Fuji and Hiroshige’s series of famous places in Edo. It was especially these landscape woodcuts as well as the Hokusai Manga (Sketchbooks) that became popular among European artists in the second half of the 1800’s. and formed a significant part of the wave of Japaneseism.

In the last quarter of 1800-t. yoga (‘Western-style painting’) emerged as a result of the influence of Western oil painting. In parallel, nihonga (‘Japanese-style painting’) was developed, based on techniques and motifs from selected traditional art forms.

This coincided with the formulation of an actual art history, under the influence of the American art collector Ernest Fenollosa. Despite an apparent contradiction between yoga and nihonga, they have mutually influenced each other, and both directions thrive today as an established part of Japanese art life.

20th century visual art

In the early 1900-t. came the avant-garde art to Japan, and one finds representatives of futurism, dadaism and surrealism in the period up to the 1930’s. Discussions arose about the role of art in the social context, at the same time as many artists were subjected to censorship and control between 1930 and 1945. In the 1950’s, avant-garde art re-emerged with renewed vigor and international contacts, such as the Gutai group.

In the early 1960’s, groups such as the Neo-Dada Organizers and the Hi-Red Center emerged, and the term han-geijutsu (‘anti-art’) came to mean a showdown with the prevailing conception of museums and art. In the mid-1960’s, concept art was based on poetic and metaphysical aspects and resulted in, among other things, in the participation of many Japanese artists in the international Fluxus movement, such as Yoko Ono and Ay-o.

In the 1970’s, an aesthetic and material-conscious art became central, which can be seen in e.g. The Mono-ha group, which, based on classical Buddhist philosophy, created an abstract, minimalist form of expression in both painting and sculpture. The sculptor Endo Toshikatsu belongs to the young generation of Mono-ha artists.

In the 1980’s, the figurative returned to the visual arts, and at the same time, new media such as video and computer art have been experimented with. Many themes in 1990’s art reflect topics discussed in Japanese society, such as the mass media, consumer culture, gender roles, and cultural identity in a broad sense.


From the late Jomon period (approximately 1500-300 BC) dates female figures decorated with incised rope patterns; they are believed to have functioned as fertility symbols. In the later Kofun period (300-600 AD) another type of clay figures, haniwa, approximately 1 m high cylindrical shapes, which were placed around burial mounds, with representations of houses, warriors, peasants, musicians and various animals.

With the arrival of Buddhism in Japan in the mid-500’s. also came the depiction of the Buddha in human form. The statues were often grouped in a trinity with a seated or standing buddha (nyorai) in the center and a standing bodhisattva (bosatsu) on each side. The figures’ hands are placed in characteristic symbolic gestures, and often an oval or teardrop-shaped disc behind the figures marks their aura.

Among the most frequently depicted figures is the bodhisattva of mercy, Kannon. From the late 800’s, when the Buddhist pantheon was mixed with gods from Shinto, sculptures of Shinto deities performed as Buddhist monks, such as the god Hachiman, are also seen. In addition, there are portrait sculptures depicting famous monks or lay people such as shoguns and officials.

Many statues were cast in bronze and gilded. A technical climax was reached in 752 when the 16 m high Daibutsu, the Great Buddha, was consecrated in the Todai-ji Temple in Nara. Other figures were made of clay or wood, which were painted, gilded or lacquered, or in lacquer, in which layers of lacquered fabric were wrapped in a skeleton of wood. The most characteristic works in stone are the outdoor sculptures of the bodhisattva Jizo, which worshipers wear with red hats and aprons.

Sculptures were often made as commissioned works for the temples by sculptor workshops such as the Keiskolen, established in the late 1000’s. of Kokei. In time, however, the sculpture was detached from the religious context and gained status as an independent artistic form of expression. From the late 1800’s. bronze sculptures and wood carvings were made with influences both from the West and from classical Japanese sculpture.

In the 1950’s, an abstract sculptural art was developed, and since then many sculptors have experimented with new materials and shapes, for example in the art of installation, which became prevalent from the mid-1980’s.

Japan – Architecture – 20th Century

In the Meiji period (1868-1912) a major modernization of Japanese architecture was initiated. Western architects and engineers were brought to the country; greatest importance was given to the British architect Josiah Condor (1852-1920), who taught at the Imperial University of Tokyo.

Early in the modernization, the technical and economic aspects were given very high priority. Architecturally, the period was marked by eclecticism. It eventually elicited a backlash from the younger architects who formed the “Japanese secession” in a quest for a modern architecture, especially inspired by German Expressionism; Yamada Mamuros (1894-1966) Central Telegraph Administration Building from 1926 and Ishimoto Kikuji’s (1894-1963) Asahi Press Building from 1927, both in Tokyo, are examples.

This trend was strengthened through the construction of Frank Lloyd Wright and Bruno Taut in Japan. The international style also gained a foothold, and several Japanese architects worked in Europe, Maekawa Kunio (1905-86) and Sakakura Junzo (1904-69) at Le Corbusier, and Yamaguchi Bunzo, Yamawaki Iwao, and Kurate Chikatada at Walter Gropius.

From the late 1930’s, the modern current had to give way in favor of a national style, most often akin to European fascist architecture; its main monument is the Tokyo Imperial Museum from 1937 by Watanabe Hitoshi (1887-1973). In response to this reactionary tendency, the Kosaku Bunka Remmei group was formed, inspired by the Deutscher Werkbund in particular.

After World War II, the leaders were again Mayekawa and Sakakura as well as Kenzo Tange, who had made a name for himself with Hiroshima Peace Center from 1949-50. Influenced by the late works of Le Corbusier in particular, Tange strived for a union of modern technology and Japanese character.

In the 1960’s, efforts were concentrated on urban planning, such as Tange’s plan for Tokyo in 1959-60. On the basis of the progressive belief and industrial development of the time, ” metabolism ” was formed in 1960 with the architects Kawazoe Noboru (b. 1926), Maki Fumihiko (b. 1928), Kiyonori Kikutake (1928-2011) and Kisho Kurokawa (1934-2007); at Kurokawa, metabolism was particularly evident in high-tech, almost science fiction-like buildings such as the 1972 Nagakin Capsule Tower in Tokyo.

Shinohara Kazuo (1925-2006) developed a symbolism, eg the house in Uehara from 1976, and Isozaki Arata worked with a more abstract, neoplatonic starting point in eg Gunma Art Museum (1971-74) in Tagasaki.

Among the architects who have made a name for themselves in the late 20th century are Ito Toyo (b. 1941) and Takamatsu Shin (b. 1948), Ban Shigeru (b. 1957), Taneguchi Yoshio (b. 1937), and Hasegawa Itsuko (b. 1941) and Sejima Kazuyo (b. 1953), who are among the few recognized female architects.

Tadao Ando has distinguished itself internationally with a new interpretation of both modernism and Japanese tradition, eg the Water Chapel from 1988 in Tomamu on Hokkaido.

Japan – handicrafts

Among modern industrialized countries, Japan stands out by having maintained a strong craft tradition with artisans who are admired for their sense of quality and artistic design.

The arts and crafts were stimulated after the middle of the 5th century with the arrival of Buddhism and the establishment of a closer connection with the mainland. With the construction of Buddhist temples, not only was there a need for paintings and sculptures of deities, but also finely crafted textiles, lacquerware and metal objects such as bells and incense burners as well as other ceremonial objects.

Early examples of this are preserved in the Shosoin Imperial Treasury and in the temples in and around the city of Nara. The Japanese handicrafts regularly received strong influences from China and Korea, which over time were adapted to the particular Japanese taste.


Pottery has been made in Japan since the Jomon period (approximately 8000-approx. 300 BC), which is named after the string prints used as decoration on the early pottery. From the Yayoi period (approximately 300 BC- approximately 300 AD) pottery and clay copies of bronze objects are known.

At the end of the period, the potter’s wheel was introduced, and the improved technique led to an increased use of pottery. Far back in time, wooden utensils and tableware were dominant in the daily household.

Of great importance for the ceramic development was the introduction of anagama stoves through Korean potters in the 400’s. These furnaces, which were dug into hillside slopes, could burn pottery at above 1000 °C. It produced unglazed, hard-burnt sue pottery, which was used by the upper class and during Buddhist ceremonies. The contact with China led around the year 700 to the use of colored lead glazes on pottery (sancai).

The characteristic Japanese ceramics from the 12th century until approximately 1600 was robust, unglazed stoneware, which was mainly used as a storage vessel. The best known ceramic centers are the “six ancient furnaces”: Echizen, Shigaraki, Seto, Tokoname, Tamba and Bizen.

Glazed pottery from Seto was considered the finest, and from the 14th century imitations of Chinese tea bowls with temmoku iron glaze were made here. Tea bowls, teapots, water jars and flower vases were made for use in the tea ceremony, which achieved its final design in Japan in the 16th century. Among the preferred tea ceramics were products from Bizen, Shigaraki, Mino (oribe) and Karatsu as well as hand-shaped tea bowls (see raku).

From Korea, at the end of the 1500’s, all the “creeping furnaces” (naborigama) were introduced, which could have up to 20 furnace chambers in extension of each other, and in which the firing temperature could reach 1300-1400 °C.

This enabled the manufacture of porcelain after suitable porcelain soil had been found on Kyushu in the early 17th century. Of the early porcelain types, large quantities of imari and kakiemon were exported to Europe, while finer imari and nabeshima were reserved for the local rulers.

In the Edo period (1603-1868) the demand for fine pottery and teapots increased. Many new kilns were created, including Kutani, which made porcelain decorated with enamel colors. Also pottery and stoneware, decorated by artists like Kenzan, was much sought after.

The ceramics of the 18th and 19th centuries were generally characterized by a decline in quality and a lack of artistic inspiration. Known in the West is satsuma – ceramics that were manufactured for export.

Today, most Japanese ceramics are produced industrially, but the old traditions are still carried on in smaller kilns around the country, for example by the internationally renowned Hamada Shoji.


Varnish has been used in Japan for protection and decoration of eg wood and wickerwork since the end of the Jomon period. Only after Buddhism reached the country and new techniques and forms of decoration were introduced from China and Korea, did the art of lacquer begin to play a very important role.

It was used especially for tableware, boxes, containers such as cabinets and furniture. The preserved lacquer works show that the maki-e technique and varnish with inlays of resp. mother of pearl and thin gold and silver flakes were known in Japan from the 700’s.

Maki-e (‘strewn image’) is a characteristic Japanese way of decorating in which gold or silver dust is sprinkled on the wet lacquer surface. This technique was developed to include several different variations, nashiji (‘pear peel’), in which irregular pieces of gold are sprinkled over a layer of transparent amber lacquer.

From the end of the 16th century, Japanese lacquer works were exported to Europe, where they became highly sought after due to their high quality, and where they sought to be imitated.


Before cotton was introduced in Japan in the 16th century, fibers from hemp and ramie (Chinese grass) and silk for making garments and textiles. Silkworms are thought to have been introduced from China around the year 200, and from the 500’s and 700’s there are two very large textile collections from resp. Horyu-ji Temple (now housed in Tokyo National Museum) and Shosoin. A large part is imported from the mainland, and some textiles have motifs that can be traced all the way to Egypt and Persia.

The Japanese generally preferred composite textile patterns and motifs taken from nature and daily life. Highlights include 16th and 17th century kimonos with dyed, painted and embroidered decoration and lavishly brocade-woven No- theater costumes as well as ikat (kasuri) -woven fabrics of hemp and cotton from the late Edo period.


The technique was introduced from China in the late 500’s. Paper was not only used as writing and printing material, but also for the home’s sliding doors and folding screens and for finely processed fans and lights.

From rain-prepared paper were made rainwear, umbrellas and templates for dyeing textiles, from leather-imitated paper pipe cases and tobacco pouches, and twisted paper was, among other things. woven into kimonos.

Paper production was formerly run as a home industry by the peasants during the winter. Before the 1870’s, when paper machines were introduced from the West, there were approximately 100,000 paper makers in the country. Today, there are fewer than 600 left who produce handmade paper, especially for artistic purposes.


Bamboo has always been used for numerous purposes, but only since the theme master Sen no Rikyu in the 1500’s. began using bamboo tools in the tea ceremony, the Japanese became aware of the plant’s artistic uses.

Traditionally, bamboo is used for e.g. combs, hairpins, brush cups, vases for flower arrangements (see ikebana), furniture, boxes and musical instruments as well as the skeleton of fans and umbrellas.

Wood and metal

Wood was widely used in Japanese folk art and was the basis for lacquer work. It was also used for masks and was one of the materials that was cut for net sugar.

The knowledge of metallurgy reached Japan in the Yayoi period, where bronze was used for weapons, mirrors and bells (dotaku) and after the introduction of Buddhism for casting statues, bells and lamps.

The Japanese swordsmiths were unsurpassed in the manufacture of strong and very sharp steel blades and exquisite accessories (see tsuba). Among other admired works were the iron boilers used in tea ceremonies.

The present

Since the 1950’s, the Japanese government has sought to preserve traditional craft techniques by naming particularly excellent artisans as “living national treasures.”

These artists are required to pass on their skills to posterity, and their efforts are financially supported by the state. In parallel, modern designers produce more avant-garde handicrafts, which exhibited at the annual art exhibition Nitten.

Japan – literature

The earliest preserved fiction in Japanese is a number of poems in the oldest historical works Kojiki (Chronicle of old days, excerpts from 1989) and Nihongi (Records of Japan) from the early 700’s.

Early literature up to 1600-t.

The poetry anthology Manyoshu (A Thousand Leaves) from the late 700’s. is a monumental collection of nearly 4,500 poems that reflect the poetic tradition of Japan over a 300-year period. The development of the literary tradition in Japan is connected with the development of the written language. Poems and place names in the three mentioned works are written with an early Japanese use (manyogana) of the Chinese characters, where they are used both according to their adapted sound value and according to their meaning. Manyogana was intricate and no longer invited to fictional texts.

About the same time as the imperial residence and with the entire court in 794 moved to Heian, present-day Kyoto, there was a simplification to a syllable alphabet, kana, which was a contributing factor to the enormous literary production of the period. The capital became the setting for a literary golden age in Japan, where both men and women within the court world unfolded. All important classical genres within prose found their expression and form. For some genres, the works of this period were never later surpassed.

The classic poem form tanka (‘the short poem’) on five lines with resp. five, seven, five, seven and seven syllables had found its form in Manyoshu, but were further refined. Formerly educated from the court and the bureaucracy attached poetic ability to a meaning that is difficult to imagine. Everyone had to be able to improvise a poem on their own, by saying goodbye to their loved one when friends met or divorced, by the countless poems (utaawase) held at court. Poetry anthologies were compiled at regular intervals by imperial decree. There came a total of 21, the last in 1439.

The earliest was Kokinshu (Poems from then and now) from approximately 920, edited by Who is Tsurayuki. It was considered the greatest honor to have just one poem in these anthologies in which women and men were approximately equally represented. In prose, female writers came to play a major role. It first developed as an accompanying explanation, a framework for poetry collections.

Early examples are Ise monogatari (Tales from Ise, partly in da. 1989), a cycle of poems with the poet Ariwara no Narihira as the center, and Tosa nikki (A journey from Tosa province to the capital, da. 1989) by Ki no Tsurayuki. This secondary prose developed into actual novels, short stories and short stories, where thought was no longer the mainstay.

In the essay genre (zuihitsu), the court lady Sei Shonagon’s witty Makura no soshi (The Pillow Book, partly in 1989 and 1996) appeared in the late 900’s. This kaleidoscopic work with its many enumerations and small pieces on all sorts of subjects came to form school. About the same time, the court lady Murasaki Shikibu wrote her masterpiece, the novel Genji monogatari (The Tale of Genji, partly in 1989).

Also the literary diary and memoir literature (nikki) found its perfect expression in Kagero nikki (The Cobwebs) of the Mother of Fujiwara no Michitsuna – often the most important female writers of the time are not known by their own name.

After the Genji monogatari, several novels were published, of which only a few are preserved, none at the same level. Hamamatsu chunagon monogatari from approximately 1050 (Forever love only the lost, da. 1981) is an example.

At the end of the 1100-t. the imperial court had lost much of its political significance, and Japan faced a more turbulent time in which the sensitive courtier was replaced by the samurai as an ideal. The feuds and wars of the warring warrior families to gain power were reflected in a new genre, warrior tales, of which Heike monogatari (The Story of the Taira Family, partly on da. 1989) from 1200-t. is the earliest and most gripping.

The Buddhist way of thinking came to influence literature even more. One longed to return to the good old days. Hojoki (Records from the hermitage, da. 1989) by the monk Kamo no Chomei from 1212 and Tsurezuregusa (Grass shoots from free time, partly on da. 1989), a collection of essays by the monk Yoshida Kenko from approximately 1330, are examples of this.

Female writers were few. There were a number of collections of short stories, short stories, where the portrayal of the person and thus the immersion did not reach the same heights as in the novels of the Heian period. (The mentioned Danish translations from 1989 are collected in Is the moon the same, is spring as before? (1989)).

The theoretical works of the no- playwright Zeami from the 1400’s were of great importance for later Japanese aesthetics. Tanka remained the prevailing verse form, but sprang from it during the 1300’s. a new form of poetry: It had long been a convention for one person to compose the first three lines of a tanka, after which another continued with the last two lines.

This developed into chain poetry (renga), where the first poet came with the first three lines, the second poet with the two ending lines, after which a third again came with the first three lines of a new poem that simultaneously associated with the two ending lines in the foregoing, etc. The chain poems could be several hundred lines long. Poet Sogi (1421-1502) is considered the most important of rengadigterne.

The three introductory lines that gave the impetus to the whole chain poem became a genre in themselves – probably the most famous literary form in Japan: haikai (haiku), which the poets of the Edo era developed to perfection.

From the Edo period to today

The main actors in the literary arena of the Edo period (1603-1868) were in contrast to former merchants and artisans as well as samurai of lower rank. The authors recruited from these strata of society portrayed fellow human beings of the time who, in various ways, suffered under feudalism, as well as their compensatory pleasure life in all its guises. But in fact, no author took a critical stance toward the feudal system as such.

In and around the culturally flourishing Genroku period (1688-1704), three masters emerged who excelled in their respective genres: Basho in the haikai poem, Chikamatsu in the joruri and kabuki drama, and Saikaku in prose. Their artistic expression was in its own way full of liberating and life-affirming energy, but neither of these three did art involve a confrontation with the prevailing social system. But their unique talent for an at once elegant and powerful expression became the norm for posterity. Numerous writers tried to follow in their footsteps, slowly leading to flattening and stagnation.

In and around the Tenmei period (1781-89), however, there was a resurgence of cultural life with the common denominator “back to the original”. Buson thus returned to Basho’s haika art; Motoori Norinaga analyzed Japan’s oldest mythology and history book, Kojiki (712); and Ueda Akinari parodied Chinese entertainment literature. Their approach was highly intellectual and academic; also their works functioned outside the framework of the social system in a strangely unrealistic way.

This trend was soon met by a backlash in the general public, after which the smooth, the banal, the exciting and the erotic literature came to play the central role. This popularization of literature took place in and around the Bunka and Bunsei periods (1804-30) with the following authors as the most prominent representatives: Issa in the haika genre, Ikku in the entertainment literature, Bakin in the historical narratives and Tamenaga Shunsui in the amorous novels. With Issa as the exception, there was something fanatical about the writers from this and the subsequent periods; they cultivated their delicate artistic mind to the utmost, until it combed over into decadence. A new era was unmistakably on the way.

At the Meiji Restoration in 1868, Japan began to modernize the country following the European model with the main emphasis on creating a rich nation with a strong army. This radically new policy caused a number of conflicts and confusion in the country, not least in cultural life and literature. On the one hand, volumes of enlightening and pragmatic works on the conditions of the West were produced in the form of translations and political novels, on the other hand, the narrative tradition from the Edo literature was still dominant, as the depictions now concerned the great upheavals in society.

But it was not until 1885 with Tsubouchi Shoyo’s essay The Essence of the Novel that realism as a literary method was introduced in Japan, which became the starting point for a modern Japanese literature. In order to be able to describe new phenomena, a new literary language had to be created. At that point, Futabatei Shimei made a great effort, but his attempts to write novels in the spirit of realism were quickly overthrown by a romantic trend.

Thanks to Mori Ogai’s exquisite translations of a wide range of European literature, in fact, the entire history of Western literature was introduced in Japan at once. Through all these translations and through the work of his own works, he created a modern Japanese written language that could express the new ideas. Around him, an aesthetically oriented group of writers such as Nagai Kafu and Tanizaki Junichiro were soon formed.

However, at the turn of the century, the most influential direction in Japan became naturalism, whose truth demands captured the interest of the authors. The search for the truth of life was also cultivated by the idealistic Natsume Soseki in his psychological novels with the keywords individualism and egoism, followed by the intellectual Akutagawa Ryunosuke and the self-destructive Dazai Osamu in respectively. Taisho and Showa period.

Not only in the art of prose, but also in the field of traditional poetry, a modernization was underway; Shiki revived thought and haikai (like haiku). In the animated cultural life of the Taishi period, Yosano Akiko appeared and put all his female passion into her thought poems.

As a reaction partly to the still dominant autobiographical novel writing, partly to the newly emerged proletarian literature, Kawabata Yasunari marked herself as a modernist in the 1930’s. After the defeat of Japan in 1945, however, he immersed himself exclusively in the traditional aesthetics, which was continued by Mishima Yukio, who cultivated the life and death of the true Japanese hero both privately and in his works.

While Tanizaki, Kawabata and Mishima became known abroad for their exoticism, the works of Abe Kobos and Oe Kenzaburo were internationally recognized for their universal values. Less known abroad, but significant, was literature produced by female writers after the war. With Enchi Fumiko at the helm, realistic depictions of women’s life in the wrestling era emerged.

Post-war literature played its role in Japan during the 1980’s. The 1990’s generation of writers is free of exoticism and considers itself to belong to the international literature.

With Murakami Haruki at the helm, more and more Japanese writers have been translated into both Asian and Western languages. Their works seem to have universal validity in the globalized world. The influence of pop culture is striking, and the demand for entertainment value is not to be overlooked. Among the newer names, Yoshimoto Banana, Tsuji Hitonari and Ogawa Yoko are worth highlighting.

Japan – theater and dance

Theater and dance in Japan is known for its diversity and its time span. There are many fundamental differences between the traditional and modern genres: Traditionally the texts are recited or sung, theater and dance are inseparable, and the education takes place through a master teaching, where both text and dance are learned through copying. In modern theater, the text is spoken, theater and dance are most often separated except within the revue and musical genres after the Western model, and the education takes place in schools or in theater ensembles.

Traditional theater and dance refer to an origin in the same myth, written down 712 in Kojiki (Chronicle of the Old Days), which tells the story of the sun goddess Amaterasu, who had hidden in a cave due to a conflict with her brother, and the whole world became dark. Therefore, the many gods gathered and initiated a ritual, in which the goddess Ame-no-Uzume performed a dance on an inverted vessel. She made a noise by stomping her feet, getting into a trance and showing off her breasts and genitals. This made the gods laugh out loud. The curious sun goddess also allowed herself to be lured out by the sound, and the world got light again.

Associated with this legend is kagura (‘god music’), which is a broad term for religious conduct to invoke gods. Today, however, it is the theatrical performance more than the religious content that has the primary attention. There are many different types, from simple games performed in villages to dances performed at the Imperial Court or at Shinto shrines.

In connection with the introduction of Buddhism in Japan from the middle of the 5th century, the gigaku form came in the early 600’s Gigaku, whose origins appear somewhere in Central Asia, consisted of mime, often moralizing performances or a procession combined with dance and music. The form no longer exists, but a large number of well-preserved masks from the Nara period (710-794) as well as descriptions and images since the 1100’s. gives an idea of ​​the content of the performances.

As a similar influence from the continent, gagaku came with the dance bugaku to Japan from the 500’s-600’s.

A broad category of performing arts of ancient Japanese origin, dengaku, is associated with the cultivation of rice. In particular, the dengae dance, performed by professional troops, became popular in the Kamakura period (1185-1333) among the growing warrior nobility, the samurai. Dengaku is still very common in Japan in connection with annual festivals associated with agriculture.

From China came in the 700’s sarugaku, a mixed repertoire of acrobatics, juggling and magic, which later also included masked games with text and dance. The Sarugaku troops thus surpassed dengaku in popularity and amounted to in the 1300’s. the basis for the no and kyogen games.

In 1603, dancer Okuni performed kabuki dances and comic sketches. Since 1629, when women were banned from performing, kabuki has been performed by men just like in the related bunraku puppet theater. In the 1990’s, the Kabuki Theater was mainly subject to one production company (Shochiku), which is unusual for the traditional genres.

The dances associated with the above genres belong to different categories, each with their own designation and characteristics: The old and stylish solo dances, called mai, which occur in bugaku and no, were performed at temples and the court and developed until approximately 1600. Popular dances, called odori, occur in kabuki or are danced together during the big festivals and developed until 1868. Nihon buyo (jap. ‘Japanese dance’) is an independent theatrical form with dances mainly from the kabuki repertoire, just like dances within for the geisha repertoire can be traced back here.

The period after approximately 1860

After the beginning of the Meiji period in 1868, when Japan was opened to Western influence, the spoken theater and Western repertoire was gradually introduced, while dance developed as an independent genre.

In connection with the political upheavals brought about by the new times, the genre shimpa (‘new school’) emerged, originally as agitatorical political theater played by actors from the kabuki theater, but after the 1930’s developed into melodrama. The men who traditionally played the female roles were now replaced by actresses. The genre still exists in this form.

At the beginning of 1900-t. translations of Henrik Ibsen’s plays were introduced in Japan. This was the beginning of the genre shingeki (‘new theater’), which includes both Western and Japanese repertoire, but which in its dramaturgy and historical development has followed Western theater. With shingeki came a definitive break with the traditional acting technique as well as a need for a special acting education following the Western model. In recent times, however, there has been some rapprochement between shingeki and kabuki.

In 1914, a girls’ ensemble, Takarazuka, was created, modeled on the Western revue and operetta tradition.

In the field of dance, Western classical ballet was established in the 1920’s, and from 1933, the German neuer Tanz was introduced, which did away with the ballet’s sentimentality and romance. Where classical ballet was more akin to Japanese traditional dance in terms of prescribed rules and established choreography, the “new dance” appeared as a radical break. It was further developed from the 1950’s when American modern dance came to Japan. From the late 1970’s, the two forms were mixed, and both also began to incorporate traditional Japanese dance techniques. As a reaction to this modern Japanese dance, but still influenced by the new dance as well as by happening, the butoh dance was created in the late 1950’s.

In the 1960’s, a group theater movement, angura (after the underground), emerged, seeking new directions in opposition to both the established theater and the political system. From the 1980’s, directions inspired by the visually oriented performance genre emerged; especially the group Dumb Type, founded in 1984 with a background in visual arts and architecture, has made its mark. Likewise, a kind of minimalist direction has emerged within modern dance represented by Kurosawa Mika (b. 1957).

Characteristic of the modern genres is the fluid boundary between amateurs and professionals as well as the exchange between the different genres, both traditional and modern. In contrast, there is the rich variety of the commercial Japanese repertoire of the commercial theaters as well as all the western genres such as opera, musical, ballet and drama. In addition, there is a live radio and television theater.

Japan – music

Characteristic of the Japanese music culture is that very old music forms live side by side with modern music forms, which are introduced from the western world. The old music forms are partly rooted in domestic traditions, partly influenced by China, especially in the period 500-700.

The music forms from the West have come to Japan since around 1900. These fundamentally different types of music and mixed forms are practiced in parallel in today’s Japanese society, albeit in different social environments.

Styles in traditional art music often have their origins in a few prominent musicians and teachers. In strictly hierarchically organized groups, students have faithfully continued the teacher’s way of playing, often for several generations.

New directions have been formed when someone has distanced himself from the teacher’s way of playing and founded a new school. Therefore, within each style of music, several parallel styles or schools have been developed, called ryu. Although the music conservatory offers education in traditional forms of music, the master-student relationship is still the most common form of education. This contributes to the survival of this music.

Although much traditional music has roots in China (and Korea), it has been transformed in Japan. This applies to the design of the instruments and the Zen Buddhist aesthetics as well as the tonality; the semitone steps in Japanese scales are a prominent feature. In the same way, the Western stylistic features have in many cases been transformed and adapted to the Japanese.

Traditional music

The oldest information about music in the Japanese islands comes from archaeological finds in the form of tomb statues from the 200’s AD, showing musicians and dancers, and from early literary sources such as lyrics and mention of music in the oldest chronicles.

These include alternating songs between young women and men, kagai, at courtship ceremonies, which took place in the mountains. These songs are of historical interest, partly because they have parallels in Southeast Asia, partly because they play a central role in the origin history of Japanese poetry. The word rhythm with verse feet of five or seven syllables is an essential component of the metric structure of Japanese songs.

The music that belongs to the Shinto religion is called by a common name kagura. The oldest part of the repertoire can be traced back to local songs from the beginning of our era. In the early 500’s, these were combined with an orchestral music with roots in China, gagaku.

The orchestras include percussion, string instruments and wind instruments, including the oboe, hichiriki, and the mouth organ, sho, which are very characteristic of the soundscape. The genre includes bugaku (dances) and togaku (melodies), which are considered to originate from the China Tang Dynasty.

Gagaku is performed during ceremonies at the Imperial Court and at certain major Shinto temples; in modern times even actual concerts occur. For Kagura is also considered a number of other music forms, which occurs at various local shintobaserede festivals, called matsuri.

To the earliest influence of China and Korea belongs Buddhism with its special world of sound. Above all, the song in the Buddhist ritual shomyo has played a significant role in shaping Japanese music through recitation based on word rhythm, glissando movements and a calm, meditative tempo. These stylistic features were cultivated in the aesthetics developed within Zen Buddhism, where silence has value in itself.

This aesthetic permeates the music of the no- drama, which was developed in the late 14th century. In addition to two actors and a choir, an ensemble, hayashi, is used, consisting of three different kinds of drums and a transverse flute. A similar aesthetic is found in the music on the edge-blown bamboo flute, shakuhachi, which used for meditative purposes.

The great importance attached to the narrative song, joruri, often performed to lute accompaniment by blind artists, also has parallels in China. In Japan, it comes in a variety of styles. Heike-biwa, which is about the family feuds of the 12th century, is accompanied on the short-necked lye, biwa.

With the long-necked lye as an accompaniment instrument after approximately In 1600, gidayu-bushi formed the musical backbone of the puppet theater, bunraku, while naniwa-bushi enjoyed widespread popular popularity well into the 20th century.

In the Edo period from approximately 1600 emerged the kabuki theater, which can be considered a popular variant of the no-drama, in which the songs, nagauta, are more melodic and often have a fixed pulse. The ensembles were augmented with the long-necked lute, the shamis, which, incidentally, became a very widespread folk music instrument.

During this time, a solo repertoire also grew in front of the bamboo flute shakuhachi and for koto, a 13-string board guitar that originally came from China as part of the gagaku orchestra. In the merchant class that emerged during the Edo period, it was common for young girls to learn certain traditional arts.

In the case of music, it was above all koto, which in the 19th century came to assume the same social function as the piano in the bourgeois environments of the western world. The repertoire went back to the music in variation form called danmono, with the piece Rokudan (six variations) as the foremost representative.

Shamisen appeared as a singing accompaniment in kouta, popular geisha songs. In the early 1800’s, sankyoku, instrumental music for ensembles consisting of shakuhachi, shamisen and koto, emerged.

Folk music has been deeply rooted in concrete situations. Lullabies, dance songs and work songs with alternating songs between singers and choirs have been prominent genres. In the folk tradition, there are diverse local variations.

During the Edo period, the capital (present-day Tokyo) became a melting pot of various local folk music traditions, which were later mixed throughout the country. In this way, a kind of “normalization” of folk tradition emerged, which anticipates today’s mass production of popular music and school songbooks.

Influence from the West

The time immediately after the Meiji Restoration in 1868 was characterized partly by a renewal of certain traditional forms of music, above all gagaku and kotomusik, partly by a strong influence from Western music in the form of march music, school songs and operetta hits.

The mixture of Japanese and Western music arose early in the school songs, shoka, not least through a series of stylistic songs by Taki Rentaro (1879-1903).

Even in the street musicians’ news songs for accordion, guitar or violin, such style mixes occur. Traditional instruments, especially koto, were developed and adapted to the new requirements. Above all, it was about combining Japanese melody with Western accordion. Through Miyagi Michio (1894-1955), this modern koto music became a kind of national symbol for Japan in the eyes of the outside world.

From the 1920’s, with an interruption during World War II, mass-produced Western music has come to dominate the music scene, and the record industry is extremely extensive. The tonal language of mass-produced music is largely international.

Within the domestic hit music kayo-kyoku, however, there is since the 1920’s a special Japanese form, enka, mainly represented by the composer Koga Masao (1904-81), who in his shows, the so-called Koga melody, combined different Japanese and western style features. This genre gradually came to replace the folk song in folk singing and formed the core of and thus the prerequisite for karaoke, a facility that allows singing for pre-recorded orchestral accompaniment, and which became popular in the 1980’s.

Mass-produced youth music has largely followed international developments since the late 1950’s. A significant part of the production consists of translations (cover versions) of international hit songs, but there is also a production that is based on broader youth movements. One of the most important genres was the protest song folk rock, which was especially prevalent in the early 1970’s.

Within this, a rift arose between American-influenced and Japanese music, which led to the first examples of style mixing in youth music, to the use of Japanese lyrics, and to the first wave of folk music revival.

With roots in the folk rock wave developed the now dominant Japanese popular music genre new music. Japanese youth music has above all influenced Western music in connection with the so-called synth pop and with Japanese-produced synthesizers with Japanese sound. In other ways, too, the Japanese market is important to the Western music industry; a number of Danish pop and rock groups have, for example, found their way to the larger Japanese audience.

Through music conservatories, through the so-called Suzuki method in instrumental education and through instrument production, symphony orchestras, prominent musicians and conductors, even the classical Western tonal language has come to play a prominent role in Japan. Choirs and orchestras, which are found at almost all schools in the country, contribute to many young people participating in the active musician.

An early leading, Western-inspired composer was Yamada Kosaku (1886-1965), who after studying in Europe composed operas. Matsudaira Yoritsune combined twelve-tone music with the influence of gagaku. Mayuzumi Toshiro, the first to compose concrete music and electronic music in Japan, often drew inspiration from the Buddhist sound world.

Takemitsu Tori composed for both Western and Japanese instruments or for combinations of them. The leading Japanese composers have belonged to the international avant-garde since the end of World War II, and the modern Japanese sound world has influenced Western composers.

Folk dance songs are gradually sung, above all, at bon parties (in July or August), and many use the different folk song styles. Certain local folk music traditions have gained great popularity. This applies to the rhythmic lively music on the shamis, which is practiced in the so-called Tsugaru jamis. From being a low-status genre, which in the 1970’s received the attention of students in Tokyo, it is now known throughout the country and courses are given in it.

The folk style of Okinawa in the south has also become widespread, and the almost extinct musical tradition of the ethnic minority Ainu in the north, which includes epic songs, the string instrument tonkori, Jewish harp and frame drum, has been revived.

Among the folk music forms that have essential functions in modern society is music at local Shinto-related festivals, matsuri. These range from large audience magnets like Gion matsuri in Kyoto to celebrations of great social significance to the immediate surroundings of small Shinto temples.

A normal ensemble at such festivals, matsuri-bayashi, consists of drums, taiko, and flutes. On the island of Sado, there is a drumming tradition called on-daiko, through which evil spirits were cast out at the time of year when the rice was sown. Here is now also the home of the young drum collective Kodo, which has renewed the Japanese drum tradition and made it known worldwide.

Japan – film

Japanese photographers began filming in 1897, and the first cinema opened in 1903. The early Japanese films drew many of their stories from the Kabuki Theater, which also influenced the form of presentation: In the cinema there was always a narrator, benshi, next to of the canvas and accompanied the pictures with an ongoing commentary. These benshi exerted a dominant influence, and the form of the films was adapted: one avoided intermediate texts, close-ups and fast editing.

From the early 1920’s, several directors sought inspiration in German expressionist and American films in particular. One went away (as in kabuki) from using male actors in female roles. The Benshis, however, still enjoyed great popularity, and their opposition delayed the introduction of sound film in Japan until well into the 1930’s.

The film industry was built on the American pattern and dominated by a handful of large film companies, which in the 1930’s produced more than 500 films a year. However, renowned master instructors such as Mizoguchi Kenji and Ozu Yasujiro managed to maintain a significant degree of artistic independence.

In 1939, the military regime put all film production under state control and demanded absolute loyalty. The end of World War II led to a marked liberalization, Japan’s first movie kiss was shown in 1946.

Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon (1950, The Gate of Demons) created international awareness of Japanese film and paved the way for a number of artistically ambitious period films, such as Mizoguchi’s later films and Kinugasa Teinosuke’s (1896-1982) Jigokumon (1953, Nobody Can Force a Heart) with his breathtaking color photography.

In the second half of the 1950’s, directors Ichikawa Kon and Kobayashi Masaki (1916-96) ruthlessly confronted the militarism of the war years. After 1960, a new generation of younger filmmakers emerged, such as Oshima Nagisa and Imamura Shohei (1926-2006), who attacked post-war Americanized, capitalist Japan in an often radically experimental, modernist film language. To the new wave also belonged Teshigahara Hiroshi (1927-2001), known for his film adaptations of Abe Kobo’s novels.

The entertainment film was dominated by samurai films and gangster or yakuza films. The comedy series about Tora-San (from 1969) was a sure success, and the so-called pink films (semi-pornographic sex films) were produced in large numbers; but otherwise the film industry experienced a sharp decline in the 1970’s and 1980’s, crowded by television, foreign films and problems developing new directorial talents.

The progress of the video has further aggravated the situation of cinemas, but at the same time created a new market, not least for cartoons, anime, which by virtue of original directors such as Miyazaki Hayao, among others. with Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi (2001, Chihiro and the Witches), has also gained a large audience in the West.

Among the most important newer instructors is Kore-eda Hirokazu with Wandâfuru raifo (1998, Between Life and Death), as well as Kitano Takeshi and Miike Takashi (b. 1960), both of whom have given the yakuza film an artistic expression in a formally challenging way.

At the same time, occult Japanese horror films such as Nakata Hideos (b. 1961) Ringu (1998, The Ring) and Miikes Ôdishon (1999, Audition) have gained international attention. Japanese industrial groups have invested huge sums in Hollywood in the 1990’s, but so far do not seem to have exerted any major influence.

Japan (Kitchen)

Japanese cuisine is rich in starch and protein, but low in fat. It is based on rice and noodles, vegetables and mushrooms, eg matsutake, as well as a wealth of products from the sea with various soy products, ginger and the strong, green horseradish, wasabi, as a common spice. Fish, shellfish and molluscs are often served raw, as an accompaniment to the rice-filled seaweed rolls; this applies to salmon, tuna, bonit, which are also used dried, and the coveted snail abalone. Fugu is prepared from puffer fish, whose entrails are deadly poisonous and which are therefore cut by specially trained personnel.

The use of poultry and pork is of later date, which is related to Buddhism’s reluctance to eat meat. Beef is very expensive. It is prepared, for example, in the dish sukiyaki blanched in rice wine (sake) and soy together with vegetables and soybean quark (tofu).

Hardly anywhere in the world is so much care taken in serving the meal as in Japan. The serving thus contains various ritual elements, and in front of each diner many small portions are served, neatly cut and garnished to present an exquisite visual experience.

Japan Education